Darlene Norris is a long-time pet lover. She has worked as a vet assistant
and draws on this experience when she writes her articles.

A canine urinary tract infection is painful for your

A canine urinary tract infection is painful for your dog.

Photo by Ryan Walton on Unsplash

Behavior Problem or Canine Bladder Infection?

If you’ve ever had a bladder infection, you know all about the pain and
burning when you urinate, besides having to run into the bathroom every five
minutes! It’s pretty much the same for your dog when she has a canine urinary
tract infection. But it’s not like she can tell you that something is
bothering her, so it’s up to you to notice if her behavior changes. What
should you be looking for?

  • Restlessness, pacing around, whining.
  • Wanting to go outside again, right after you’ve just let her in.
  • Breaking housetraining and having accidents in the house (inappropriate urination).
  • Drinking a lot of water.

Because this type of infection is pretty much localized in her bladder, she
won’t usually have a fever or lose her appetite. As a result, a pet owner may
think the dog is misbehaving and take her to the trainer, when she really
needs to go to the
vet instead.

A urine culture is the best way for your vet to determine what is causing
your dog's bladder infection.

A urine culture is the best way for your vet to determine what is causing your
dog’s bladder infection.

Photo by US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

What Tests Should Your Vet Run?

If you bring your dog in for urinary issues, your vet may want to run a
battery of tests, usually starting with a simple urinalysis.


Your vet will probably want to run a urinalysis. This is an important
screening test, regardless of whether your vet thinks your dog has a canine
bladder infection or not.

The urine sample is spun in a centrifuge to separate the solids and the
liquids. The solid part is called sediment. Your vet will examine the sediment
under a microscope, looking for crystals, cells, and bacteria. The vet will
also chemically analyze the sample to learn its specific gravity (a measure of
how concentrated the urine is), and also to see if protein or other substances
are present.

Urine Culture

However, if your dog is showing signs of a urinary tract infection, your vet
may skip the urinalysis, and just do a urine culture.

A urine culture may be recommended if:

  1. There are white blood cells present. These are a sign of infection, and they shouldn’t be present in a normal urine sample.
  2. Your vet finds bacteria in the sediment when he or she looks at it under the microscope.
  3. There is excessive protein in the urine, which can be a result of inflammation in the bladder. Alternatively, the kidneys may be excreting protein. The vet needs to rule out a bladder infection before he or she looks at the kidneys.
  4. The urine is so diluted that bacteria and white blood cells can’t be found. A dog who drinks too much water probably has a bladder infection.

A urine culture starts with spinning the urine sample in a centrifuge. The
sediment is then used to innoculate an agar culture. If bacteria grow on the
culture, this means an infection is present. It usually takes two or three
days to run a urine culture, to give the bacteria time to grow.

The urine culture provides your vet with important information. It tells your
vet what species of bacteria is causing the problem. This helps him or her
determine whether the bacteria present actually cause disease. Some don’t, so
you don’t need to use an antibiotic on bugs that aren’t causing a problem.

The culture also indicates the number of bacteria present. A lower
concentration of bacteria may indicate that the bacteria might be hanging out
in the lower urinary tract, and aren’t actually colonizing the bladder.

The urine culture should include a sensitivity test or antibiotic profile.
Skipping the sensitivity test can be a bad idea, because you can waste a lot
of time and money giving your pet an antibiotic that won’t kill the specific
bacteria causing the problem.

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Antibiotic resistance is also an issue. More and more bacteria are becoming
resistant to antibiotics that are used to wipe them out. Often this is a
result of using the wrong antibiotic to try to eradicate infection.

Vet Costs for UTIs Can Seem Prohibitive

Many times vets are hesitant to recommend these tests, as they are expensive.
Some people just can’t afford them, while others refuse to pay the added cost.
And there are some clients who think that the only reason vets run these tests
is to pay the bill. But this isn’t true.

Are These Tests Really Necessary? Yes.

A urinalysis helps your vet determine if your dog has a different health
issue, while a urine culture is the only way your vet can confirm that your
pup does indeed have a urinary tract infection.

If you skip having the sensitivity test done, your vet will be shooting in the
dark as far as using the right antibiotic to clear up your dog’s bladder
infection. This means the infection could come right back as soon as the pills
are gone.

If finances permit, it’s a good idea to repeat the urine culture after the
antibiotic treatment is finished. If your dog comes down with another urinary
infection, at least this way your vet will know if the original infection came
back, or if it’s a new infection. This is important information because
repeated bladder infections can be caused by cancer or Cushing’s disease or
other serious health problem.

Your vet needs lab tests to determine whether or not your dog has a bladder
infection, and if so, what is causing it.

Your vet needs lab tests to determine whether or not your dog has a bladder
infection, and if so, what is causing it.

Photo by Lucas Vasques on Unsplash

How Is a Canine Urine Sample Collected?

****Canine urine may be collected in one of four ways.

1. Table Top

This means the sample is collected from the exam table or floor where the dog
dribbled urine. This is not the preferred way to collect a sample, since it’s
probably contaminated with bacteria, either from the surface where it was
collected or from the dog’s lower urinary tract.

2. Free Catch

The urine is collected mid-air as the pet urinates. The sample may be
contaminated by bacteria in the lower urinary tract, but at least it won’t
have bacteria from the floor or wherever it was collected.

3. Catheter

Your pet won’t enjoy this much, but it’s over pretty quickly. Your vet will
pass a small tube into your dog’s bladder, and collect a sample. This sample
is less likely to be contaminated, although bacteria can possibly be
introduced into the bladder.

4. Cystocentesis

The vet inserts a needle through the abdominal wall directly into the bladder.
A urine sample is withdrawn with a syringe. Although it’s possible for a
little blood to get into the urine sample, the sample should be uncontaminated
by any bacteria other than what might be in the bladder.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
veterinarian immediately.

© 2009 Darlene Norris


Bev on February 19, 2019:

You are so correct if lab cost were not so much more pets would be saved!

Pauline Robinson on October 25, 2017:

I just paid 175.00 for the lab work, and 195.00 for the culture. Not counting
the medications…

Kristina Wesman on September 07, 2017:

I dropped off a urine spec for testing and I needed a ua/uc recheck because
she just got done with a 2 week course of Keflex for a staph infection uti.
The vet did the ua but didn’t do the uc because she says it would need to be
expressed sterilely. Is this true? I didn’t do this before.

graystones on May 04, 2017:

$25-100 sounds reasonable. I’m being quoted $140 for the urinalysis/culture. I
wish vets didn’t markup lab tests so significantly. A lot more pets in need of
life savings tests would get them if lab tests were not a big profit center
for vets